We are back with another group of of statistics that found a way to fly under the radar for the week that was in the NBA. No player is exempt from this collection of far-reaching oddities, pointing out trends that you likely missed in the excitement of watching the games. On days with a full schedule, the top five stats are highlighted, and on days with fewer than five games, I’ll give you a stat from each game. One thing to remember: these stats are current on the day listed. That is, a trend can break as the week progresses, but for that moment in time, the numbers held true.
Without further adieu, the always interesting and never replicated Weekly Stat Pack.
The Nets made 12 of their 14 field goal attempts from outside of the paint in the first quarter as Brooklyn used a 40 point explosion (3.33 points per minute) to lead by nine. The next 36 minutes saw the Nets make just six of their 31 attempts from outside the painted area (1.61 points per minute).
What’s in a name? Days after J. Taylor recorded 109 points at Grinnell (his second career 100-point effort), J. Taylor for the Bobcats scored a career high 20 points. Jeff Taylor (of the NBA) is in his second year out of Vanderbilt and has proven to be Mr. November as 13 of his 24 career double digit point totals have come in the first month, including five straight in the last seven days. The 20 point effort gave him 116 points for the month.
For the first time in his career (525 games), Kevin Durant missed three free throws and six three pointers in a winning effort.
News of a sweet stroking 7-footer in a Mavericks game probably doesn’t surprise you. The big man made a three pointer for the 12th consecutive game this season. The player, of course, is Spencer Hawes. For the record, Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t had regular season streak that long in nearly ten years.
The Clippers and Grizzlies combined for 208 points, yet only three players had more than two assists.
Avery Bradley scored 11 points and missed 17 shots from the field in 27 minutes as his Celtics were never close in a 109-85 loss to the Rockets. Houston’s starting unit combined for 76 points and missed only 13 shots in 139 minutes of action.
The Heat recorded at least 100 points for the 13th consecutive November home game (12 of which have been wins).
John Wall tied a career best with 16 dimes in a winning effort against the Timberwolves. Since we flipped the calendar to 2012, Washington holds a 7-2 record when Wall’s assist total is greater than his point total and 45-98 when it is not.
Andre Drummond is as promising a talent as there is in the low post these days, but his inability to knock down free throws makes him much easier to limit than he should be. His best effort from the stripe came against the Kings last week when he connected on one of his three attempts. On the bright side, he’s missed fewer freebies than Kevin Durant, the league’s premier free throw shooter. You can chose to ignore the fact that he has attempted 111 fewer if you’d like.
I’m not saying the Kings are slow and have next to no interest in playing defense but … the Phoenix Suns didn’t dress their starting point guard (Eric Bledsoe), yet they outscored Sacramento by 25-4 in transition.
Carmelo Anthony missed 72 shots from the field from last Wednesday through tonight’s overtime loss to the Pacers. For reference, LeBron James had missed 69 shots for the season entering tonight’s action.
The starting shooting guards in the Jazz/Pelicans game point total (15) was greater than their shooting percentage (13.3%). Eric Gordon made three of 13 shots and Gordon Hayward made just one of his 17 attempts.
In denial that we are in an era of small ball? Dwight Howard, Spencer Hawes, and Andray Blatche combined to make 33 of their 43 field goal attempts for 86 points, but didn’t record a single win.
The Grizzlies beat a team in the Warriors that ranks second in aFG% (54.7%) without having a single player shoot over 50% from the field. Yea, having Steph Curry available is kind of important.
The Knicks, Nets, Bucks, and Jazz have played 45 games, yet Chris Paul has more double doubles in his 12 games this season than that quartet has wins.
Blake Griffin attempted 42.9% more shots from at least 15 feet from the basket than Kevin Durant did.
The Bulls may have lost the battle to the Nuggets, but they made a big stride toward winning the war of the 2013-2014 season. Derrick Rose looked comfortable and played aggressive as he attempted 20 shots on his way to 19 points. The Bulls won the first two games this season in which their star attempted at least 20 shots and 17 of the last 20.
Lance Stephenson is a 31.6% career three point shooter, yet tonight was the first time in his last 35 games in which he failed to hoist up a triple.
For the fourth time in 11 days, Andre Drummond missed at least as many free throws as field goals. That wouldn’t be a problem if he was taking a ton of free throws, but the young big man has attempted 20 free throws and 66 field goals.
Mike Conley made ten two-point field goals against the Spurs tonight on his way to a game high 28 points. That matches the same number of two point baskets Matt Bonner has scored in November games since 2010.
Over his last three games, Paul Pierce struggles have been magnified due to the absence of half the Nets starting lineup. He has scored 15 points from the field and 14 points from the free throw line despite attempting twice as many field goals.
The Pelicans are 3-0 and averaging a shade under 115 points since the return of Ryan Anderson (shooting 62% from distance and 50% when inside the arc). They were 3-6 and averaging 87 points without him.
For the sixth time in November, DeMarcus Cousins PR (points + rebounds) surpassed 30 as he scored 23 points and pulled down 19 rebounds against the Clippers. Interestingly enough, those six contests have come against only three different teams.
James Anderson launched ten three pointers as his 76ers fell to the Pacers, giving him 29 attempts from distance over the last five days (attempted 25 field goals all of last season).
Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are two of the premier big men in the league, but this Rockets/Timberwolves game was determined by the perimeter players. Minnesota’s two starting guards and their top reserve (Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and J.J. Barea) combined for 29 points on 11/39 shooting and ten assists. Houston’s backcourt was missing James Harden, yet their trio (Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverly, and Aaron Brooks) notched 62 points on 21 of 37 shooting and 13 assists.
The Bucks bench accounted for 67.1% of the team’s total shots and was responsible for all three players who scored more than seven points. In contrast, the Bobcats starters attempted 62.3% of their shots and were responsible for four of their five double digit scorers.
The Spurs and Cavaliers combined to have 20 players take between four and ten field goals. 20 players! For reference, the Magic/Heat game only had 19 players get into the game.
I realize the loss of Derrick Rose is a big blow for the Bulls, but playing a little bit of defense would help minimize that impact. They allowed the Clippers starters to shoot over 69% from the field and score73 points.
Josh Smith’s team won for the sixth consecutive regular season game when he makes more free throws than three pointers he attempts.
Damian Lillard leads the league in the point attempts, yet Channing Frye (who is making less than one three pointer per game for his career) has attempted more triples over the last three road games (22 to 21).
Gordon Hayward made only two of his nine field goal attempts (22.2%), but that barely lowered his shooting percentage during Utah’s six game losing streak (27.6%). He also recorded at least five turnovers for the fifth time in his last eight games.
For the sixth time in nine home games, Steve Blake recorded more assists than points. He has yet to do so in the Lakers five road games this season and has gone 16 straight road games dating back to last year without such a performance.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
For the second straight offseason, the Brooklyn Nets have made an unexpected splash that has rippled through the waters of the NBA. Last year, we saw GM Billy King trade for Joe Johnson with the Nets moving to Brooklyn and needing a marquee ticket-seller, I mean basketball player, to accompany the team’s transition. This year, the Nets traded for two post-prime Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as pulling off possibly the steal of free agency, signing Andrei Kirilenko to a third of what he was being offered elsewhere. Oh, and they made a former player of theirs with no coaching/basketball operations/analysis experience their head coach.
Busy summer, huh? As great as this team looks on paper – with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez on top of their newest additions – there are questions to be answered as to how this team will live up to the hype and where exactly their peak is.
First – How far can talent alone take this Nets squad?
Even the most experienced experts can’t picture exactly how effective a coaching staff Jason Kidd and his army of 300 assistants will be. Kidd’s yet to have a non-player basketball experience so under the worst-case scenario that he and his coaching staff don’t do a solid enough job. it’s up to the talent on it’s own. Luckily for the Nets, they have a damn good amount of it. Now the threat of injury is apparent, with Brook Lopez being the only player in their projected starting lineup of Williams-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett-Lopez who is under 29 years of age. But let’s set injuries aside, for now.
Deron Williams’ TS% was at a ‘meh’ 54.2% clip before the All-Star break when he struggled with injuries, but leaped to an astounding 62.2% post-ASB. If his past injuries don’t linger and he stays healthy, Williams is well overdue for a strong year in a Nets uniform. Joe Johnson is the odd man out, with no clear-cut role in this system and little to offer the team that they don’t have elsewhere. Johnson was a freak in close games last year, shooting 66% on tries in the final 2 minutes of a game within 3 points, but disappointed nearly everywhere else. Johnson’s below-average PER mark of 14.1 demonstrated his ineffectiveness scoring the ball, and even with improved spacing this year it’s hard to imagine a big jump in efficiency.
Pierce is a mixed bag, with conventional knowledge and regression in his statistics telling us his career is quite close to it’s eclipse. However, ‘The Truth’ continues finding a way to make himself very useful – Pierce’s TS% was at a 3-year low last year, but his REB% and AST% were career highs. Pierce has said he’s content with being a “glorified role player” and this truly is a great descriptor of how he could be most helpful to Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett’s mid-range jumper, low-post precision and intangibles don’t age, so expect a lot of the same from this former Celtic in those aspects. As for his defensive impact, well we’ll get to that later. Brook Lopez is arguably the Nets’ most intriguing piece, being their lone young prospect and only player getting significant minutes who still has yet (as far as we know) to reach his ceiling. Lopez has improved his defense dramatically from his rookie campaign, last year being his largest leap forward. With Garnett paired alongside him, we can expect this to continue, adding on to an already impressive offensive repertoire.
Off the bench, we have the steal-of-the-summer in Kirilenko filling the sixth man role as a tremendous defender and well-rounded player altogether. Filling out the pine are a decent if not an average cast of characters – Jason Terry, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston, who has impressed in the preseason.
So we take a look at this roster construction and can easily come to the conclusion that, yes, this roster is flooded with talent. Enough to be a contender if the coaching aspect doesn’t work out well? No, not at all. The team doesn’t have an elite superstar to carry them, meaning it’ll take a team effort and brilliant coaching to make that happen. But don’t mistake this team for the Pacers, who have five well-above average defenders starting for them and one of the best coaches in the league, not to mention a system that’s already been cemented. All this being said assuming injuries aren’t a factor. There is also talk of a potential power struggle between the players and coaching staff, but I don’t really see this as a possibility. Moving on.
Second – How much of a defensive impact can Kevin Garnett have? Garnett is going to be the Nets’ defensive anchor and their best chance of being a top-10 defensive team. Many cite Garnett’s influence on the Celtics’ defense last year, with a pretty telling number: the Celtics gave up 8.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor compared to him on the bench. That’s huge, no doubt about it. However, KG the Net may not be able to have that large of an effect on the defense this year. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, he won’t be playing the center position as he did in Boston. Lopez will undoubtedly play the center, moving Garnett back to the four – and in today’s NBA, further from the paint where he is at his most helpful. Lopez is incapable of guarding perimeter oriented fours, so this duty will go to Garnett, thus limiting his interior presence. This can be undone by subbing out Brook Lopez of course, but that is a mighty cost over any decent stretch of time and there’s no denying that.
Secondly, coach Kidd has made it known that he plans to limit Garnett’s game time and possibly even having him sit out the second games of back-to-backs. Now nothing was set in stone from the sound of Kidd’s comments, but it’s clear – despite Garnett’s noted disapproval – that Jason is planning to do what he can to keep KG fresh for the Playoffs. Garnett can’t do much for the Nets defense sitting on the bench or playing 20 minutes a night, but playing him often brings an increased risk of injury.
With these two things in mind, expecting Garnett to revolutionize Brooklyn’s defense is far-fetched. Brooklyn will surely improve on that end but it’s hard to see them being an elite team on defense when their anchor can’t maximize his ability to bolster the team on that end.
Finally – How does this team stack up to the NBA’s best such as Miami or Oklahoma City?
Well, to me, there are too many question marks and ‘what if’s’ for Brooklyn that other contenders simply don’t have. Unlike Miami, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Chicago, Memphis and San Antonio – the Nets have a brand new team top to bottom, with a brand new system to turn into a winner. That alone is a scary idea, and let’s not forget that Miami didn’t even finish the job in their first year with three of the best players on the planet, nor last year’s Lakers who, well, you know. And those teams didn’t employ first-time head coaches with no experience outside of playing the game.
The Nets also have a lot more injury concerns than other contenders, as much as I find this point rather rocky. But, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to Brooklyn’s defensive anchor being 37 years old and their two youngest starters battling injuries since they first donned a Nets uniform. The lack of the best, second best, third best, etc. player in the league is another weak point to me, with having one transcendent athlete being as pivotal as it is in today’s NBA.
I see Brooklyn having an up-and-down season, with talent alone earning them at the very least a top four or five seed. Come the postseason, if the team hasn’t figured itself out yet it’s hard to see them making the Conference Finals. If they do click however, I can see them challenging but ultimately falling in the ECF or, if they get lucky, the NBA Finals.
With the major free agency moves behind us and teams starting to take shape for the upcoming season, some oddities are beginning to stick out roster-wise. Whether it be a cluster of players at the same position, the wrong type of player in a certain role or just plain quizzical moves, this free agency period like the rest have spawned a number of questions surrounding most teams in the league. Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Hawks’ Starting Wing
Who are the Hawks going to start alongside Kyle Korver on the wing? Jeff Teague, newly-signed Paul Millsap the improving Al Horford and Korver have cemented their spots in the starting five, but who’s the missing piece? Young pieces Jared Cunningham and John Jenkins are both far too inexperienced and well, bad. Meanwhile DeShawn Stevenson has long outgrown his prime. An option is starting rookie Dennis Schroeder in a dual-point guard lineup, such as the Hawk so often did with Teague and Devin Harris. Another is starting Elton Brand and going big with Millsap at the small forward position, which I discussed at HawksHoop.com.
The Boston Celtics
The whole team. All of them. Just… what? The team’s obviously rebuilding, with maybe a handful of players on this roster being ones they are looking to keep for the future. Where Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries – the two former Nets – fit into this rotation wise is beyond me. It’s just a mess.
The Kirilenko-Pierce Dilemma
Who do the Nets start, Andrei Kirilenko or Paul Pierce? Well, who starts isn’t actually the biggest problem. Who’s going to play the most minutes at the 3? Who’s going to be on the floor in tight games? Each have their pros and cons, there’s no silver lining here. Start Kirilenko and you actually might not have a horrible defensive team, start Pierce and your spacing will be much improved. It would have been ideal for both to be able to play together, but with their playing the same position and All-Stars blanketing the rest of Brooklyn’s brand spanking new starting five, this doesn’t seem to be possible.
The Charlotte Bobcats
The Cavaliers’ Frontcourt
Roll call! Talented young big men, listen for your name! Number one draft pick Anthony Bennett? Here! Improving fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson? Present! Injury-prone rebounding machine Anderson Varejao? Aqui! The second-best center in the league a couple of years ago, Andrew Bynum? Strike! An underdeveloped center who was tossed into the meat-grinder last year yet somehow played well, Tyler Zeller? Here! That Los Angeles Laker that quietly looked good, Earl Clark? Here! Okay now form a single file line, where Mike Brown will try to figure how who the hell will start, play, or ride the bench.
The Denver Nuggets
7/23/13 – Police continue to search for two missing Denver Nugget front office personnel. The first is one George Karl, last seen hoisting a Coach of the Year trophy and getting knocked out of the first round of the Playoffs. The other is upstart GM Masai Ujiri, last seen in Toronto being awesome. If you have seen any of these two men, please report your findings to the police. There is a cash reward waiting.
Smoove at the 3
The Pistons made their splash this offseason with the signing of one Josh Smith, mid-range shawty with a knack for playing terrific all-around defense. He, sophomore Andre Drummond and potential All-Star Greg Monroe all are potent starters, meaning J-Smoove will have to play the small forward spot. Thing is, it’s not his ideal position and will effectively kill offensive spacing. Smith is a 28% career three-point shooter and is best when taking on larger and slower players at the four. He can defend all five positions on the floor though, so at the very least Detroit will have quite the defense and a whole lot of dunks.
A minor quip, but Douglas is replacing Jarrett Jack as the Warriors’ back-up point guard. Although Douglas will bring the defense that starter Stephen Curry doesn’t, Jack oftentimes found himself playing alongside the sharp-shooting Curry and feeding him the ball as he would a wing. Douglas doesn’t have the distribution skills of a Jarrett Jack, hell he nearly ended his possessions in a turnover as much as he did in an assist. The Dubs often went to this look in tight games, and it opened up easy looks for Curry and was overall quite effective for the team so long as Jack wasn’t hoisting mid-range jumpers left and right. In all likelihood we’ll see Andre Iguodala take on this role, but it would have been much easier for the Warriors to have seeked out a better playmaker.
What the heck do the Pacers do with Danny Granger? 4 years ago he put up 26 a night on a 58% true-shooting clip, but then regressed and was strapped to the bench last season due to a tough knee injury. Now young Paul George has stolen the franchise face of Indiana basketball, and Granger could very well be effective next year, but the two play the same position. This is the last year of Granger’s deal, does he get traded? Does he start alongside George? Does he come off the bench, where the Pacers desperately needed help from last year? We shall see.
Kobe Bryant and Nick Young on the Floor Together
SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS EVERYBODY!
Despite this issue, the Grizzlies made it to the Western Conference Finals. Problem being, it’s hard to see them go further if this problem goes untouched. The Spurs were able to leave Memphis’s Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to go help out down low because the two couldn’t find the bottom of the net if they had their game sliders up in 2K. This will make it all but impossible for the Grizzlies to see the NBA Finals or a championship, and there aren’t many answers. Allen may be a trade asset but he is also Memphis’s best perimeter defender. Prince isn’t someone teams are trying to nab via trade and the young Quincy Pondexter has yet to develop the viable defensive prowess to make him a 3-and-D starter candidate.
All of Milwaukee’s Bigs
What were they thinking? You sign a boatload of bigs then trade the one who has a ton of defensive upside and the best name in basketball? I’m eager to hear how a frontcourt rotation of LARRY SANDERS!, Gustavo Ayon, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh will be divided.
The Gordon-Evans Dilemma
The Pelicans signe Tyreke Evans to an $11 million deal this summer, and their intentions with him are unclear. Current starting two (Evans’ primary position) Eric Gordon has injury question marks, but until he’s out, Evans has no true role. He refuses to play small forward, so starting him beside Gordon would be a mistake. Having him come off the bench would be paying a player $11 million a year just to be a sixth man, which is unprecedented especially when you consider just how good of a player Evans is.
The Bargnani-Stoudemire Comedy Show
As of the Knicks’ rotation at the moment, New York has two off-the-bench big men. Andrea Bargnani, a shooting 7-footer who can neither defend or rebound and Amar’e Stoudemire, a non-defending 6’11” big man with the knees of a 70-year old. With no other options to turn to – unless Jeremy Tyler somehow makes the team and jumps ahead of either player on the depth chart – these two will be manning the bench frontcourt for the Knicks. There is the possibility of the Knicks starting one of the two, which would be catastrophic any way you look at it. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the future. Listen closely. You will hear players dribbling by the Knicks’ bigs and finishing with easy slams. There it is again. And again. And again…
The Nets were a stagnant, inconsistent, and plainly poor ball club last season. A coaching change early on brought little change in strategy and a first-round Playoff defeat to the shell of a Finals contender. What’s happened in Brooklyn since then? A lot.
Former Nets star himself Jason Kidd was hired as their new head coach. With no prior experience as a coach on any level, the move seemed like much more of a publicity stunt than a basketball move, especially with all of the much more qualified candidates available at the time. After being introduced, Kidd’s earned himself some criticism with saying he wants Gerald Wallace to be a point-forward, following that up with a technical foul in a Summer League game. Still, a recent quote hinted good things could come out of Kidd in Brooklyn, when he addressed a serious issue in the Nets’ offensive approach:
“We are going to try to not iso, we are going to get more team-oriented on the offensive and defensive end.”
This is a very, very smart move by the new head coach of the Nets and a necessary step in improving a defense which struggled last year and will likely do worse this season.
The Nets offense ranked 9th in the league last season, but was blatantly exposed by the elite defense of the Chicago Bulls in round one of the postseason. Their isolation-heavy system bent on the scoring of former All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson as well as current All-Star Brook Lopez proved incapable of scoring at a strong enough rate to escape a first-round exit.
The idea of an offensive-focused team seemed reasonable on paper, with Williams and Johnson known for their scoring and Lopez a center who’s growing into one of the best at his position. Only, Deron Williams shot 44% from the field, Johnson 42% and Lopez – shooting 52% – played just 30 minutes a night and was benched in many fourth quarters. The best creator of offense on the rest of the team was Andray Blatche, and that tells you all you need to know about how the Nets’ hastily compiled roster and offensive system turned into a disappointing inaugural season in Brooklyn.
The Nets ranked fourth in possessions ending in an isolation in the league per mySynergySports, and shot just 43% on those possessions. With Kidd promising to move away from these looks and towards a much more unified offensive attack following the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn’s in a perfect position to switch up their approach for the better. Here are some suggestions:
Deron WIlliams Post-Ups
Williams is one of the bulkiest point guards in the league, with the speed to match his strength. This athletic edge was hardly taken advantage of last year though, with Williams looking to create out of the post just 83 times per Synergy Sports. His performance warrants more time down low, with him scoring 0.99 points per possession on the block with just a 10.8% turnover rate. A point guard posting up is also a huge rarity in the NBA, making it a tough adjustment for opposing squads.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett went to this play oftentimes in close contests as members of the Boston Celtics and there were few times when it didn’t end in a score. Garnett’s mid-range touch will forever be a part of him, hell he’ll probably drain one right before falling on his death bed. Pierce is as crafty at getting to the basket or creating his own shot in general as he was back in 2008, even if his athleticism isn’t there. He scored 0.90 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler and Garnett scored 0.98 as a screener last season per Synergy. The two, in tandem with Lopez, Johnson and Williams waiting for their man to help, would mean an easy score for Brooklyn in the majority of occasions.
Joe Johnson Off-Ball
Johnson was an offensive liability with the ball in his hands outside of the final minutes of a close contest last season, shooting 44% and under out of isolation, pick-and-roll and post-up plays last year. However, as an outside threat waiting for the pass he was lethal. Although it’s not a familiar approach to his offense, Johnson molding his game towards being more of an off-ball threat would not only make him a more efficient scorer but would also spread the floor for his teammates, similar to what the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony did this past year. Johnson scored 1.02 PPP as a spot-up shooter and 1.09 as an off-screen gunner, but isolation attempts dominated his offensive arsenal last season.
Experimenting with Lineups
Last season’s Brooklyn Nets’ had one lineup with a NetRTG of +16.0 and another with a NetRTG of +18.3. These lineups combined saw 130 minutes of game time, just a fifth of the minutes their most popular lineup saw, which had a NetRTG of +4.4. Sure the sample size is on the short size, but what’s to say these lineups wouldn’t have been better options for Brooklyn? Especially the one with the +18.3 NetRTG, Williams-Bogans-Johnson-Wallace-Lopez, which saw not a minute of playing time in the playoffs. Kind of unacceptable, having a team who’s offense is one of the more stagnant of the league but also are stagnant in looking for more effective ones. This season, putting an emphasis on finding lineups that kick ass and sticking to them until they don’t work while always trying something new but not silly should be something coach Kidd focuses on if he doesn’t want his team to be as predictable as the Nets of 2013 were.
Jason Kidd has made his mark early in his tenure as Brooklyn’s head coach with his words, but watching him turn these words into action will be a whole other challenge. Anybody can talk the talk, but walking the walk is what makes teams successful.
Every year as the playoffs approach one thing is guaranteed.
A team or two always gets marked as “the team no one should want to face.” The teams normally fall into one of two categories.
First the young up and coming team that does something better than anyone else in the league. Think the Grizzlies of a few years ago, who excelled at the slowdown grind it out game because of an elite defense. Or this year’s Rockets who possess one of the most efficient and explosive offenses in the league.
The other category is the one the two teams being anointed as this years “don’t want to face” teams fall into. Veteran teams that fell below the seeds that many people expected them to before the season.
This year those teams are the Lakers and Celtics.
There is a problem with the labels this year though.
They just simply aren’t true.
These aren’t teams that were missing their best player for large chunks of the year but now have them back. These aren’t teams that are all of a sudden playing great basketball. In all reality, these aren’t even good teams.
What they are, are teams with names.
Celtics, Lakers, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard. The names should mean something and because of that people think the Celtics and Lakers should be feared this year.
But look deeper. Deeper at other names that matter. Jordan Crawford, Shavlik Randolph, Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake, Earl Clark. Do any of those players bring anything but chuckles when you realize that to win in the playoffs they will need to make big contributions to their teams?
Because that is the underlying point that makes these labels nothing more than a myth. Sure superstars matter in the playoffs and the Lakers and Celtics both have them. But so do role players.
Would the Heat have won the title last season without LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh? No. But do they win it without Shane Battier, Mike Miller or Mario Chalmers? Probably not.
The importance of the role player is all over every title team but for more examples look at both the Celtics and Lakers last title. Sure Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Pierce, and Garnett were important.
But so were PJ Brown, James Posey and Tony Allen in Boston and Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom in Los Angeles.
Now I know the people who are adding these labels just mean that each team can maybe pull a first round upset at the most, but outside of the names where is the reasoning?
Will the Lakers finally learn how to play defense in time to stop Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker or Tim Duncan?
Will Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry be able to provide enough offense to beat the Knicks?
In the end the Celtics and Lakers are who they are. They are bad teams, one who hung onto the seventh seed in the East because the Bucks forgot how to play basketball and lost to the Magic and Bobcats, and the other who plays tonight to determine their playoff fate.
Kobe Bryant is not about to come back from some midseason injury to save the Lakers. Ditto for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.
If you want a team that “no one should want to face” check out the Rockets where great role players like Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik surround a superstar in James Harden and form an elite offense. Or to Chicago where for all we know Derrick Rose will reappear for the playoffs to join Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and an elite defense. Those are the dangerous teams.
Not the Lakers or Celtics.
All they are is old and not very good.
Hello again, Hickory High. Sorry I wasn’t around last week. I was in Istanbul. And the first thing I saw when I got out of the airport was a giant poster of Hedo Turkoglu
, the Turkish Michael Jordan
Hedo gets a pretty bad rap because we feel he hasn’t reached his potential. There were moments when he was in Orlando when it seemed like he could be a key player on a contender, but when he went to Toronto, he pulled a Vince Carter and begged his way out. His reputation hasn’t been the same since.
A big reason Miami and Boston have had success over the past few years is that they haven’t thrown money at guys like Hedo Turkogulu—and I don’t mean Turks. I mean guys who don’t become the players they should be. After the Decision, some people, including me, thought LeBron James might have been squandering his potential by teaming with two other stars, but that seems pretty silly now. Both these teams are full of guys who became the best players they could be.
So when the Heat and the Celtics meet Monday night, lets give thanks that Hedo Turkoglu will be nowhere near the game. He might be the best Turkish player ever right now, but Ersan Ilyasova is getting better every year.
Alright, let’s talk about the game.
Dwyane Wade has really picked up his game during Miami’s winning streak. He’s been the Heat’s leading scorer in the month of March, shooting 57 percent. His performance has kept Miami winning while LeBron James has come down from the ridiculous heights he reached at the beginning of the Heat’s streak. People like me have long prophecied Wade’s decline. But he’s still performing at a superstar level. It’s hard to say he’s losing his athleticism when he gets to the free throw line more than all but seven other guys in the league. It’s tough to call him old when he’s still one of the best defenders in the league. Until further notice, Dwyane Wade is still a great player.
As he ages, Dwyane Wade can look to Paul Pierce as an example of a star aging gracefully. Since he came into the league in the late 90s, Paul Pierce has been the Celtics’ best player. He’s had to take that role again with Rajon Rondo out. With Rondo out, he’s Boston’s best shot creator, passer and closer. In his past nine games, he’s averaging 20.2 points per game on 52% shooting. It might not be enough to salvage what would would be his worst shooting season in years, but he’s contributing in other ways—his TRB% of 11.1 would be a career high. He still gets to the line a lot—almost as much as Dwyane Wade, and he’s a big reason why Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the league. He’s had solid games against the Heat as well, notching a triple double in Boston’s January win. This is how you get old in the NBA.
What to Watch For
This is a classic offense-defense matchup. Though Miami has improved on defense, they’ve been winning all season with their scoring. A lot will depend on whether Kevin Garnett, who is injured with a strained left adductor, will be able to play. He’s still one of the best defenders in the league, and the Celtics will be hard-pressed to replace his ability and leadership.
The Miami Heat actually play at a pretty slow place, even slower than the Celtics. But no one turns a turnover into a basket faster than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Celtics simply don’t have that kind of speed without Rajon Rondo. Both defenses are excellent at forcing turnovers, but it will be more important for the Celtics to be careful with the basketball.
Why Else Should I Watch?
This is one of the few real rivalries in the league. You can feel the animosity.
How to Watch
ESPN, Monday, 8 p.m. eastern
League Pass Bonus Game
Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies, Wednesday, 8 p.m. eastern. The rubber match between two western conference powers.
Thanks to the All Star Break, we’ve got a Weekly Stats Recap with 43% more stats for you to enjoy. But before we dive into the week’s oddities, let’s determine how important the distribution of assists is to a team’s success rate.
Jared Dubin (@JADubin5), the founder of HoopChalk and Co-EIC of Hardwood Paroxysm, was curious as to the impact of having many good distributors. To answer this question, I charted the number of assists from the third leading assist man on both the winning and losing team. Jared guessed that the teams who split up the passing duties would win more often than not, and, for the most part, he was correct. For the past two weeks (78 games) the third leading assist man averaged 3.56 assists for the winning team and 2.99 helpers for the losing team. That doesn’t reflect a huge advantage, but in such a competitive league, the extra point or two on a nightly basis is huge. The magic number seems to be five assists for three or more players, as teams who accomplished that won 13 of 17 games.
I also took a look at how the team with the most players notching at least four dimes faired during this extended study. This study was a bit more definitive, as teams who led in this category won two of every three contests. In fact, both teams had the exact same number of 4+ assist men more often (24) than games won by the team with fewer 4+ assist men (18). In short, it appears that the correlation between distributions of assists and wins gets stronger in higher scoring games. A single assist man can carry a low scoring team to victory, but if the game is going to be played at a fast pace, you’d better have multiple players capable of creating via the pass.
You’re next! What stat would you like to see broken down? Any stat that can be tracked on a nightly basis is fair game and I’d love to hear (@unSOPable23) your thoughts.
Without further delay, here are your 50 stats that most people missed over the past two weeks.
Last night the Boston Celtics beat the Denver Nuggets in triple overtime, 118-114, stretching their win streak to seven games since Rajon Rondo
went down with a season-ending knee injury. At the time, removing the Celtics’ All-Star point guard seemed like a fatal blow to a team that was already struggling to keep their heads above water. Despite a slew of off-season additions, efficient offense has been just as elusive as ever in Boston. The Celtics have averaged just 100.4 points per 100 possessions, tying Memphis for 22nd in the league, and without their offensive engine they appeared ready for a major stall.
But over this seven game win streak the Celtics’ offensive efficiency has jumped over three points to 103.7 points per 100 possessions. The defense in Boston hasn’t missed a beat, so if the Celtics have somehow stumbled onto a sustainable and repeatable recipe for efficient offense they quickly become a major player in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If this is just a mirage, an extended adrenalin boost born of desperation, then we can expect the Celtics to fade back into the pack. So the question becomes, what is responsible for this bump in offensive efficiency, and is it something that can be sustained?
The first piece of the puzzle is that Boston lucked into a lineup of less than impressive defensive teams. Here are the total defense rankings of the seven teams they’ve beaten on their current streak – 12th, 29th, 25th, 6th, 17th, 23rd, 13th. Other than the Clippers there is not a potent defense to be found on that list. However, it’s possible that in that soft schedule the Celtics have been able to find some things that work, and that might work against a more stout opponent. One place to begin the search is looking at how their shot-selection has changed, using Expected Points Per Shot (XPPS). This metric uses the expected values of shots from different locations to evaluate the quality of a team or player’s shot selection.
For the sake of creating a full picture I divided these XPPS numbers into three categories. I looked at the Celtics’ XPPS from their recent seven game win streak. I also looked at their team numbers from before the Rondo injury, when he was on the floor and when he was off the floor. The values from when Rondo was on the floor have his own shot attempts removed, so that we are only looking at the quality of his teammates’ shots. I also looked at Actual Points Per Shot for each category and calculated the Shot-Making Difference between the two. For context, the league average for XPPS and Actual Points Per Shot is 1.047.
[table id=66 /]
When Rondo is on the floor the Celtics have had one of the least efficient shot-selections in the league. A vast majority of the shots Rondo creates for his teammates are mid-range jumpshots for players like Brandon Bass, Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Those players are all reasonably solid shooters from that distance and despite the inefficient appearance of their shot-selection, they have actually managed fairly well, scoring 1.070 points per shot. When Rondo was off the floor, before his injury, things looked nearly identical.
However, since Rondo’s injury the Celtics’ have made some clear changes in their shot selection. Their XPPS has pushed above average for the first stretch this season and they’ve also been outperforming their XPPS by nearly twice the margin they were earlier in the season. To see exactly what’s causing this numeric shift we can look at what percentage of the Celtics’ shot attempts are coming from the six different areas that make up XPPS.
[table id=67 /]
There are two big shifts here. Comparing their shot selection with Rondo to their distribution now, they’ve moved about 6% of their shots from the mid-range to the rim. They’ve also taken about 1.5% of their shots and moved them behind the three-point line to the free throw line. Those are significant changes, and ones that bode well for the Celtics’ offense over the rest of the season. There is no reason that those changes in shot distribution couldn’t be sustained over the rest of the season and on their own, separate from any questions of shooting accuracy, they make the Celtics’ offense better by a definitive, albeit small, margin.
The other piece of this shot selection equation is accuracy. As I pointed out above, since Rondo’s injury the Celtics have improved their shot selection by a healthy amount, going from way below average to slightly above average. But an even bigger factor in their improved offensive production has been the doubling of their Shot-Making Differential. Shot-Making Differential is the difference between the expected value and the actual value of their shots, so seeing that they’ve doubled their output in this category already takes into account the improvement in their shot selection. For reference, the Celtics’ Shot-Making Differential of 0.096 over the last seven games would rank second in the NBA this season, just behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. In short, this piece of their improvement is probably not sustainable, at least not at this level.
Summarizing what we’ve seen so far, using the most basic descriptors, the Celtics began taking better shots, but also began making those shots at a rate vastly superior to what they were making earlier in the season. It seems that a big piece of their improvement may be that they have stumbled into a streak of particularly accurate shooting. For us to assume that increased accuracy is in any way sustainable we’d have to assume that there have been some other changes to their offensive attack besides just the locations where their shots are coming from. One place to look is at the types of offensive possessions they have been using to create those shots.
The table below contains data from mySynergySports and shows the percent of offensive possessions the Celtics have used in different ways, before and after Rondo’s injury. It also shows the points per possession the Celtics have averaged in each of those possession types.
[table id=68 /]
Right away we see a few more significant shifts in the Celtics’ offensive makeup. With Pierce taking on a bigger role as offensive facilitator, a much smaller portion of their offensive possessions are being used on post-ups. Surprisingly, those post-ups have become a much more efficient option, jumping from 0.90 points per possession to 1.04. A slightly higher percentage of possessions have been moved to cutters, which have also seen an increase in efficiency. We see the same pattern with spot-up shots. But the biggest piece is what has happened with the Celtics’ pick-and-roll.
Before Rondo was injured, pick-and-roll possessions used by the ball handler made up 11.0% of the Celtics’ offense and they averaged 0.80 points per possession in those situations. With Rondo out that percentage has jumped to 14.5% and the Celtics are averaging 0.86 points per possession. Those sound like small differences, but they have huge import for the Celtics’ offense. When Rondo ran the pick-and-roll his first, second and third priorities were to find an open shooter. This single-minded focus made the job of a defense much more simple. The fact that the Celtics were still able to succeed to any degree with such a reluctant scorer handling the ball is a testament to his prowess at moving the defense and creating space. Now with players like Pierce, Terry, Barbosa and Bradley running more pick-and-rolls the defense is presented with several more dimensions to account for. The efficiency of possessions used by pick-and-roll screeners for Boston has declined slightly without Rondo at the helm, but the threat of a scoring focused ball handler has more than offset that. In the end, although the Celtics have no one who even approaches Rondo’s ability to create shots for others in the pick-and-roll, using players who are better at creating shots for themselves may be making the Celtics more difficult to defend.
It’s important to remember that we’re looking at a seven game sample, and things can rapidly change in several different directions. However, the Celtics have made some nice fundamental changes to help them plug the numerous holes created by Rondo’s absence. They are taking better shots, and creating them in some new ways. Although the incredible accuracy they’ve displayed during their win streak may not be here to stay, it does seem that the changes they’ve made have created a more full and healthy offense.
Thanks to Utah Jazz fan, Taylor Berthelson (@utahmankiyi
), this week’s study was devoted to determining the importance of the first quarter to the game result. I used years of data to determine that winning teams typically performed well in the first quarter
earlier this week, but it doesn’t hurt to add some 2012-2013 statistics to prove the trend true for this season.
Taylor estimated that 60% of teams that win the first quarter win the game, and he was pretty darn accurate. For this study I didn’t count games that were tied after one quarter, so the sample size was 45 games (four games were not counted). Teams that were leading after the first 12 minutes won 29 times (0.644 winning percentage), with seven of those teams either drawing even or losing the remaining 36 minutes. For the week as a whole, the 45 teams that lead after one quarter of action went on to win the remainder of the game by an average of 1.03 points. There were two outliers in this week’s set of data, but they essentially offset one another. The Pistons beat the Bucks by nine points in the first quarter but lost the game by 27 points (-36 points) while the Rockets beat the Jazz by six in the first quarter on their way to a 45 point win in Utah (+39 points).
Thus, the hypothesis stands. The 2012-2013 season seems to be trending in the same direction as seasons past where the first quarter holds a stronger correlation to success than any other quarter.
Taylor took me up on my offer to break down a stat of his choosing and verified a belief that he had. Now it’s your turn. Have a stat that you’re curious about? Or maybe you did something real well back in the day and want to see if that skill set would have an impact on an NBA team. Whatever the case may be, your insight is important to us here at Hickory-high. What would you like me to dive deeper into over the next seven days?
If you need help thinking of odd stats and trends, here are 35 of the best from last week.
This week I thought I’d take a look at the shot taking/making of offenses “at the rim” and behind the arc. Theoretically, offenses work hard to get a good look from one of these spots on very possession, and I was curious which had a greater impact on the game. My hypothesis was that winning teams would have the consistent edge “at the rim” while the three point shooting would be something of a crapshoot, an indication that a team can live/die by the long ball. I also wanted to see where the winning team gained the largest advantage on a per game basis. My thought here was that this study would prove that while three point shooting can win games, pounding the ball in the paint is the way to have consistent success in the NBA.
For the most part, my train of thought was on the money. Winning teams shot 69.3% “at the rim” and 39.0% from distance during the 54 game week while the losing teams shot 63.1% and 34.0% respectively. What surprised me about the results were the shots attempted at each location per game. The winning team averaged 25.5 field goal attempts at the rim while the losing team averaged 25.2. The results for three point attempts were nearly as symmetrical, with the winning team shooting 19.7 per game as opposed to 18.8 from the losing team.
For the week as a whole, the winning team outscored the losing team by an average of 3.6 points “at the rim” and 3.9 points from distance. There were a few outliers (the Bucks made 14 triples and 13 shots at the rim in a loss to the Cavs and the Knicks connected on a mere eight from point blank and 16 from distance in a win against the Hawks), but for the most part the data was pretty consistent. Teams that made 10+ three pointers won 60% of the time and teams that made 20+ shots at the rim proved victorious 75% of the time. My conclusion is that if you’re a good three point shooting team, let it fly, but if you’re an elite interior team, you will have more long term success.
Let your voice be heard and tweet me (@unSOPable23) your stat of choice for this week’s #StatStudy. You’ve got nothing to lose. This is your chance to uncover NBA data, don’t miss out! With that being said, here are the stats to amaze from the week that was in the Association.